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The Role of Violence

“Mankind owes to the child the best it has to give… The child shall enjoy special protection, and shall be given opportunities and facilities, by law and by other means, to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity” (Declaration of the Rights of a Child, 1959). Only after so many centuries, the world realized its grave mistakes. Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs were unfortunate to be born before it happened; they were born in the time of slavery, most unfortunate to be colored and slaves.

Because of this, they were victims of violence all their lives until they had the chance to put an end to it through their escape and freedom. Role of Violence in the Life of Frederick Douglass Violence was everything in the life of a slave. Frederick Douglass had accepted that from the start. In “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave” (1845), Douglass relayed his first and worst experience of violence, being separated from his mother when he was a baby. He told his story like it was something expected: not knowing his own family and not even knowing when he was born.

It was not unusual for children born in slavery. His mother was a slave and his father was a whiteman, possibly, his mother’s master. He was told that, that was the practice for women slaves who give birth in slavery. Children were bound to be separated so that their mothers could still be useful to their slave-owners. The violence committed against Douglass as a child was worse than all the beatings and slashes he received when he grew up. To be deprived of a life with a mother is the worst kind of violence that can be done to a person. Today, society has realized how cruel it is to separate a child from his mother.

The “Declaration of the Rights of the Child” (1959) made sure that this was covered: “The child, for the full and harmonious development of his personality, needs love and understanding. He shall, wherever possible, grow up in the care and under the responsibility of his parents, and, in any case, in an atmosphere of affection and of moral and material security; a child of tender years shall not, save in exceptional circumstances, be separated from his mother. ” (Declaration of the Rights of the Child, 1959). Being deprived of a mother’s love did not hinder Douglass from getting his sought after freedom.

He carried himself through the years and he was not exempt from the beatings and torture all slaves endured with their masters. His physical pain was nothing compared to the many violence against men and women that he witnessed as he grew up. He was to himself, “doomed to be a witness and participant” (Douglass, 1945, Ch. 1) to the many atrocities committed against his fellow slaves. “I have often been awakened at the dawn of day by the most heart-rending shrieks of an own aunt of mine, whom he used to tie up to a joist, and whip upon her naked back till she was literally covered with blood.

No words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart from its bloody purpose. The louder she screamed, the harder he whipped; and where the blood ran fastest, there he whipped longest. ” (Douglass, 1845, Ch. 1). Many of these men and women did not survive slavery, either their bodies succumbed to death or they simply lost all the possible hopes to gain freedom. Douglass reached his point of wanting to end his own life and even his master’s until he realized that there was still a chance for him to get his freedom and put an end to being the victim of violence.

He had but one memory of compassion from his Mistress who briefly taught him to read the ABC and whom he described as “My mistress was, as I have said, a kind and tenderhearted woman; and in the simplicity of her soul she commenced, when I first went to live with her, to treat me as she supposed one human being ought to treat another” (Douglass, 1845, Ch. 7). But it was brief since this woman became ruthless like everyone else. But it gave him the cue that education is power. He knew, from the time he was working with his master, that his passage to freedom was education.

But another violence brought upon them is society’s determination of depriving slaves and colored people with education. He overheard his master and his wife talk about how slave-owners have to keep slaves from acquiring knowledge. Slaves should never be educated because that will be the end of their resilience. “If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell. A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master, to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world. Now if you teach that nigger how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. ” (Douglass, 1845, Ch.

7). Despite all the violence committed against him: being deprived of a mother and a family, the physical torture to him, the emotional torture to his fellow slaves, men and women, young and old; the continuous deprivation of education, Douglass knew better than getting his revenge. He had too much passion to free his fellow slaves that he left punishment in the hands of God. He became a strong advocate of freedom and education. Instead of getting back to the slaveholders and slave-owners who caused him all the pains, he fought his battle in Congress and lobbied for the rights of colored people and slaves.

He used his acquired skills by giving public speeches to influence those who were in power. He wrote significant literatures that became valuable historical references on the events of slavery. He became a strong member of the Abolitionist group and was one of those who influenced the passage of the Bill of Rights giving freedom to all slaves and equal rights to people. Role of Violence in the Life of Harriet Jacobs Harriet Jacobs wrote the Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl in 1860. She was Linda Brent, a slave girl who spent most of her youthful years, about two decades under her evil master Dr.

Flint and her jealous Mistress. Violence has left its mark in the life of Harriet Jacobs. Like the many women who were unfortunate to be colored and born in the era of slavery, Harriet Jacobs suffered an ill fate. “Reader it is not to awaken sympathy for myself that I am telling you truthfully what I suffered. I do it to kindle a flame of compassion in your hearts for my sisters who are still in bondage. ” (Jacobs, 1860, p. 6). Lucky enough to be educated and eventually freed, she documented the events in her life, those she experienced and those she witnessed, to give evidence of the evils brought about by slavery.

Harriet Jacobs was not deprived of a family she was born with it, having the privilege of being raised in a happy home. But being a slave eventually led to the torments. To Jacobs, it was violence in different forms. Unlike Frederick Douglass and the other men and women slaves, Jacobs was spared from physical pain, she was even protected from it by her master, Dr. Flint. Jacobs suffered because she was born beautiful. Her master was attracted to her and because she was a slave, she was raped for so many years. What could be worst for a woman than to suffer unending violation of womanhood?

This violence against her chastity was the worst that could happen to a woman. Jacobs grew up knowing that a woman’s most valuable possession is her purity. She was violated all her adult life. Being a slave ruined her entire life. She borne children fathered by her master and she had to hide in her grandmother’s attic, seeing her children but not being with them to avoid her evil master and pursue her plans to be free. Harriet Jacobs struggled so that she could be united with her children and brought her family to freedom.

Like Frederick Douglass, she lived to see the various atrocities that slavery has done to her fellow slaves. Most of which were violations against women. Many of these concerned the taking away of children from their mothers, violations against women’s physical weaknesses and worst, the continuous violations on women’s chastity. “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters… “(Jacobs, 1860, p. 57). Slavery ordered women to forget their value for purity and give in to violence against their womanhood. Being a woman and being a slave was a consequence of slavery.

They did not have a right to be protected from the evil intents of their masters. Jacobs was treated like a pig and she abhorred the acts against her womanhood. Unlike many who gave up trying, she pursued her struggles and eventually gained freedom. Jacobs could have gotten back at Dr. Flint and possibly killed him to avenge her woes. But she knew better; instead of looking back, she looked forward because many of her fellow slaves need her to give them a chance to taste freedom, like she had. Like Frederick Douglass, Jacobs became a strong advocate against slavery.

Like Douglass, she did not use her freedom to get revenge against her evil master and the other evil slaveholders who committed violence against her fellow slaves. She knew better than get back at them. She did the better recourse of joining the Abolitionist movement and fight for the cause of the slaves, to save them and give them freedom. Conclusion It was wise for both Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs to choose to save the rest of their fellow slaves than getting even with their perpetrators. Their knowledge and skills were put into much better use with the joining of the Abolitionist movement.

The Abolitionist cause would not have become so strong without the forces of those who had first had experience in the violence of slavery like Douglass and Jacobs. It proved that “pen was mightier than the sword”. The documents of slavery in the writings of Douglass and Jacobs and the other proponents of the limited but significant historical evidences, have led to the eventual emancipation of slaves in America. Bibliography “Declaration on the Rights of the Child”. 1959.

February 2, 2009 from http://www. unhchr. ch/html/menu3/b/25. htm Douglass, F. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave Written by Himself. Anti-Slavery Office, No. 5 Cornhill Boston MA. 1845. February 2, 2009 from <http://www. gutenberg. org/files/23/23-h/23-h. htm> Jacobs, H. A. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Written by Herself. Child, M. L. ed. Boston, MA. 1860. February 2, 2009 from <http://docsouth. unc. edu/fpn/jacobs/jacobs. html> Kwame, Anthony Appiah, ed. , Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave/Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Modern Library: 2004. ISBN 10 0345478231.

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